CA confirms John Castriciones as agrarian reform secretary

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – After being bypassed last March, Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary John Castriciones finally got the nod of the Commission on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday, May 30. 

Castriciones was heavily criticized for his alleged anti-farmer and union policies.

"His military mindset has divided the bureaucracy and he created the atmosphere of so much fear," said Antonia Pascual, president of the DAR Employees' Association Union, during the confirmation hearing on Tuesday, May 29.

Farmer leaders even trooped to the Senate gates to urge members of the CA to reject his appointment. (READ: New DAR chief Castriciones vows to prioritize farmer beneficiaries)

In the end, the CA endorsed Castriciones' confirmation to the plenary. 

Senator Grace Poe, CA chairperson on agrarian reforms, revealed that 13 members voted in favor of Castriciones' appointment, while two rejected it in secret ballot voting in an executive session.

"Bagama't nanaig at nanalo siya at na-confirm siya, marami siyang dapat isaayos at dapat siguro ay huwag din na maging vindictive siyempre doon sa mga nag-opposed sa kanya," Poe said.

(Even though he got confirmed, he has a lot to fix and must not be vindictive to those who opposed him.)

Castriciones took over the post from activist Rafael Mariano, who was rejected by the CA in 2017.

Prior to his appointment to DAR, Castriciones was an undersecretary at the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), where he and two other undersecretaries were accused by department employees of corruption.

In a letter that officials and employees of the DILG sent to President Rodrigo Duterte, they asked that the 3 undersecretaries be fired.

Castriciones is a lawyer and a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Maharlika Class of 1994. He also holds a master's degree in comparative government and international law from Notre Dame University in London.

He was active in Duterte's presidential campaign and served as executive vice president of the Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte group, a nationwide volunteer organization.

In a statement on Wednesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque welcomed the CA's confirmation of Castriciones, as well as of Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, and Commission on Elections Commissioner Socorro Inting.

"The confirmation of the aforementioned officials reflects the full confidence [in] the competence and integrity of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte's recent appointees. It's time to work, work, work to realize the President's vision of a comfortable life for all Filipinos," said Roque. – Rappler.com

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.

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